Friday, December 4, 2009

SEO: Opening Doors For Stock And Assignment Photography

 The song and dance of getting photography assignments vrs. optimizing your web site for both assignment and stock photos.

Stock And Assignments
I think about stock photos all the time, but every once-in-a-while I think about assignments. There are a lot of good things about assignments; Money, fresh ideas, subsidized stock, the camaraderie of working with bright, motivated people, did I mention money?  But there are some downsides too. They take a lot of time. There is pressure. There is having to do things that you don't want to be doing. There is the stress of working with idiots (or at least people who think differently than you do).  And, oh yes, there is getting the assignments, the song and dance routine that all of us working pros know so well!

Time, Energy And Money

Those of you who are in the assignment world know of what I am speaking. There is constantly putting books together, putting time, energy and money into figuring out the coolest look, compiling prospect lists, shooting for the book, taking out ads in source books, shipping portfolios, keeping track of portfolios and so forth. Then there are the estimates. It can take an enormous amount of time and effort to put together good, accurate estimates. Unless you are truly exceptional a lot of those estimates will turn out to be, well, if not a waste of time at least a less than optimal use of your time.

Books Open Doors

But like I said, assignments can be good. The last assignment I did brought in $130,000.00 after expenses. I would be open to more of those, particularly because I didn't spend any time seeking that assignment. It just came to me. It came to me because I had written a book on Photoshop (Adobe Masterclass: Photoshop Compositing With John Lund). They say you don't make money off of books, but books open doors for you. I didn't make appreciable money in royalties from my book, but my client said that they hired me because of it. That book opened many doors for me and some of them were quite rewarding!

Art Directors, Art Buyers, And Designers Looking For Me
So I am OK with assignments, when they come, and if they are right for me. But I have no desire to jump through hoops to get them. I prefer to put my energy into my stock photography. Part of that stock effort includes SEO to get more eyeballs onto my images. But effective SEO will bring more than just stock clients. Art directors, art buyers, designers and others who are looking for a photographer with the look and style that I offer will find me. These people will be looking for me as opposed to me struggling to find them and get their attention. How cool is that? Just last week a licensing agent contacted me, all excited about the work I am doing, and exclaimed, “It was so easy to find you!”  It has been a year of heavy SEO now, but it is starting to work.

SEO Opens Doors

Good SEO is like that book. It opens doors. In the short time I have been working on optimizing my site I have had a surprising number of opportunities come my way. Some of them include a contract with a wall décor company, negotiations underway for a line of greeting cards, and a possible calendar deal. I have also executed one assignment and turned a couple of others down.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that it will probably be another year before my SEO really kicks in…at least in a big way. I am totally confident that I will look back and be truly glad that I put the time and effort into making my site come up early in appropriate searches.


Unknown said...

Hi John,

I was very happy to find your blog tonight (I saw one of your images on Blend and then googled your name :). Great posts!

You may have heard about it, but if not, I highly recommend you check out the SEO Cookbook PDF that Photoshelter put together. It's quite robust in listing all the ways to do SEO - some you know but I bet you'll learn a thing or three.

For the record, I do use Photoshelter but the cookbook is really helpful for anyone doing web design/marketing. Here's the link to get it: (they do ask you to submit your email address to get the PDF. If you have problems let me know and I can get it to you.)


PS - I am in the Bay Area too. It would be great to meet you when you aren't busy shooting or blogging. :)

Mike Kahn
Green Stock Media - Promoting sustainability one image at a time.

John Lund said...


Thanks for the tip...I think Photoshelter is doing a good job of promoting SEO to photographers, but I don't think a whole lot of us are doing much about it!